To acquire wisdom, one must observe

Graduate School of Arts and Sciences discusses doctoral program reform

Brandeis’ Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (GSAS) recently published an article concerning updates to doctoral programs at Brandeis. According to their website, this article was the first of a series of newsletters to be published in order to fully outline the efforts underway towards various career pathways. 


The article addresses the discrepancy between the skillset students obtain in their doctoral programs and the careers that they actually end up pursuing. Research cited in the article indicates that doctoral programs exclusively cater to students who aim to pursue tenure track positions in academia. However, these positions are increasingly few and far between, according to researcher Leonard Cussuto, author of The New PhD


Graduates of the GSAS include a vast variety of alumni in fields such as biomedical researchers, navy chaplains, schoolteachers, Broadway playwrights, politicians and composers. The Dean of GSAS Wendy Cadge is quoted in the article, saying, “This is a crisis we can’t ignore. The world needs scientists, humanists, artists and social scientists to tackle its most pressing problems. We must, as a school that produces 80 percent of Brandeis’ PhDs, ensure that our doctoral curricula … prepares students for the vast array of careers they will actually pursue.”


Curricular reform is happening at a smaller scope within Brandeis’ English Department. A recent grant from the GSAS’s Connected PhD Program allowed sub-grants to students and faculty in order to conduct career exploration in the humanities and the humanistic social sciences. The English department also introduced a more flexible dissertation model by allowing students to develop portfolios of their own making. This can include a series of articles or multimedia content. Furthermore, the department of English took suggestions from alumni in order to integrate new course requirements that promote transferable skills. For example students may consider taking courses from the International Business School or the Rabb School of Continuing Studies. Other programs that are currently undergoing curricular reform include Anthropology, Musicology and Near Eastern and Judaic Studies.


The GSAS’s Directors of Professional Development Jonathan Anjaria (ANTH) and Marika McCann (DEP) have promoted individually catered learning via one-on-one advising consultations and are encouraging students to explore diverse careers within the humanities and the sciences via career fairs and guest speakers. Some examples include the Technology and Innovation Fairs from the Hiatt Career Center, where students were able to network with prospective employers. 


This coming spring, Anjaria and McCann will partner with the Science Communication Lab to conduct a three minute dissertation competition where students can share their research interests. McCann is quoted in the article saying, “The Brandeis 3MT competition is a university competition designed to showcase graduate student research—three minute talks to a great audience.”  


Additionally, the GSAS recently purchased a subscription to Aurora, an online platform developed by Beyond the Professoriate that helps students navigate various career pathways outside of academia via online tools. 


Future changes to the GSAS’s doctoral programs are the beginning to an ever-evolving process of change. Cadge envisions Brandeis as a model for different institutions to reflect and adapt what they value as a good education, according to the article.

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